Photo: John Dagys
Yesterday we looked at the possible new regulations that would dictate the future of Le Mans and top tier Prototype racing around the world. The "Hypercar Concept" is one that has me extremely excited. A more cost effective direction that is designed to be inclusive will almost definitely attract more teams, more manufactures and improve the spectacle that is top-tier endurance racing. Today those regulations have been made official and it is time to start the countdown to the 2020/21 super season.
Massive budget reductions with emphasis on put on availability.
Within the new regs the first and foremost is the nearly 75% reduction in cost (Roughly $30-35 million). This may seem like a boring piece but the reduced cost means a more attractive place for the World's top manufactures to go and play. When Porsche announced its return to the top Prototype class the world lost its collective mind because there would now be three factory teams fighting in LMP1. Three is a far cry from Prototype's heyday in the 90's, but such was the world we were living in. Never mind that in just a few years Audi and Porsche would exit due to costs leaving only Toyota to fly the factory team flag.
The new budget cap and cost reduction methods will entice more factory teams to test their mettle against each other. In addition Factory teams will be required to make their engines and hybrid systems available to privateer teams. This is a far cry from the current model where privateers are required to develop their own systems less factory teams reveal some of their closely guarded secrets.
Road car appearance and Hypercar performance.
In the old days there used to be two regulations that sort of set Le Mans apart from most other top level racing series. Cars were required to have the ability to carry a spare tire and a suitcase. Seems a bit odd considering the spaceships we have become accustomed to these days but those were actually a rules. The new formula will get back to that road car endurance feel with a wider cockpit capable of housing two seats.
Teams will have the option to run literally any engine they want providing it meets with the fuel flow regulations. So in theory we could see a naturally aspirated Ferrari V12 matching up with a turbocharged Ford V6 and everything in between. The ICE engines will be capped at 520 KW (Roughly 700 horsepower) while the Hybrid systems will produce 200 KW (268 hp). Rules stipulate that the hybrid systems will drive the front axle only and will have a cap on development costs. That is easily 900+ horsepower in a car weighing 980 kg, you don't need an advanced degree in sophisticated mathematics to know that is a recipe for serious speed. Target lap times around Le Mans is 3:20 which is slower then the current cars but not depressingly slow either.
Some may say this new direction is a departure from the current cars and the glorious buffet of technology they offer. While the new cars will not be on the cutting edge they will still serve a purpose to the general public and the cars we drive. There are two ways to develop new tech, there is the initial, "can we do it and will it work" phase and then there is the "now that it works let's try to make it more affordable phase". The new regs take the latter's approach and frankly is a more important step as it pertains to consumers. It is one thing to develop amazing technology that does wondrous things for performance and efficiency but if it is cost prohibitive it has no bearing on the general public. Making technology affordable, specifically hybrid/electric drive is a huge leap forward in automotive technology.
In summation the new regulations will provide us with cars that look more like road cars, provide us with a more relevant path to technological advancement and be unique. No word has been given on the globalization of this platform, IE will IMSA adopt this platform, that is a huge question. Throughout these discussions IMSA's involvement has been attached to the new category (which has yet to be officially named).
“Clearly we would like to see a global platform, with cars eligible in IMSA and the WEC,” he told RACER. “I think that with most of the things we presented today, we are very close. But we try to reduce the budget a little more. There will be a working session in the next month before the final details are presented. IMSA is around the table still, so it must be positive." FIA WEC CEO Gerard Neveu said during the announcement. “Our job now is to try and provide a platform that is exactly like GTE, because that works really well; we are sharing regulations, we have some partners that are not racing in IMSA and they have Corvette, which is not racing in the WEC, but healthy grids in both.”
As far as I can see it that is the only piece of potential bad news surrounding this entire enterprise. I am extremely excited for these regulations and it would be a massive kick to the stones if we don't get some variation of them.